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updated 7/17/2008 5:36:34 PM ET 2008-07-17T21:36:34

Concetta Bertoldi, known for being a medium who communicates with the dead, answers some of the most common questions about what happens on the "other side"  in her book, "Do Dead People Watch You Shower?" An excerpt.

Introduction
I know you’ve got a lot of questions — after all, that’s the reason you picked up this book, right? But before I get to those, I thought it might be good for you to know who it is who you’re talking with, so I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself.

First of all, let’s get a few things out in the open. I consider myself to be a spiritual person. But that does not mean that I am a perfect person. I have plenty of faults. I can swear like a sailor, I enjoy a good dirty joke, and if the truth be told, I don’t get along with my mother-in-law. From the moment I first got together with her son, in fact, she’s been a real rock in my underwear. A real pickle-puss. But don’t get me started. Aside from the usual number of human flaws, I think I’m pretty easy to get along with. Just your average Jersey girl who talks to the dead.

I’m a pretty upfront person, but I haven’t always been open about that last bit. I’ve accepted it now, sort of grown into it, but especially when I was younger that’s the last thing I’d want anyone to know about me. I haven’t been public all that long — only for the past ten years, and that took a lot of prodding (I’ll say more about that later) — but now that I realize how important it is, I’ve become a lot more willing to talk about this ability and the incredible things I’ve learned from it.

As soon as I made the decision to go public with my unusual talent, the questions came in full force. There have been serious questions, silly questions, sad questions, snarky questions. I answered them truthfully, patiently ... and repeatedly. This book is an attempt to answer all of the questions I have been asked over the years, and finally put an end to that one question I am asked most: When are you going to write a book?

In the past I would respond as any severely dyslexic girl who didn’t know how to type would — I changed the subject. But after a while I realized it might be easier to just write the damn book than to keep fielding the damn question. So you can stop asking me now, all right?

Within these pages I am going to be as upfront and open as possible. I will try to keep the cursing, and mentions of my mother-in-law problem to a minimum. But you should know that it may come up from time to time. Sometimes even a rock in the underwear can be a good teacher — even if the lesson is that you can’t please everyone! I hope I can bring some understanding to the subject of what happens to us all when we pass over from the land of the living to the Other Side. I hope some of what you’ll find in these pages may be comforting to you. And if I can make someone smile, so much the better!

What is the difference between a medium and a psychic?
A medium is a psychic, but a psychic is not necessarily a medium. Someone who is just psychic can give you a prediction, but they can’t tell you where or who they got it from. I (and other true mediums) not only can tell you what is going on and what will happen, but we can tell you who on the Other Side is bringing the message. I’m the whole package, baby!

When did you first start talking with dead people?
I couldn’t say exactly, but certainly from the time I was a small girl. It wasn’t really having a conversation, I just knew something. I understood so little at that time, I had no one to explain to me what this ‘knowing’ was. One of my very earliest memories of this was walking home one day when I was about nine years old (this wasn’t the first, but one that I strongly recall) and ‘realizing’ that my older brother was going to be taken from us at an early age. As I was walking into my backyard, I ‘heard’ the Other Side (I didn’t know at the time that’s who was communicating with me) tell me this. I can’t recall the exact words I heard. I’m not even sure it was a full sentence. Nevertheless, I knew what they meant, and I remember it like it was yesterday.

Other messages like this one came to me at other times. I was told, for example, that I would never in this lifetime have children of my own. I was also told that in a past lifetime my soul had been married to my father’s soul — one of the reasons, I’m sure, why I completely adored my father in this lifetime. The effect of these messages, for me, was one of grounding me. Even if I didn’t like what I’d been told, even if, like anyone would, I fought against losing my brother and against whatever it was that decided I would not have children, the fact that I’d been told these things in advance eventually helped me gain perspective.

What happens to us when we die?
People have fears. They’ve heard about going into the Light and want to know, does it hurt walking into the Light? Do we lose our memories? Is everything there that we had before?

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What I’ve heard from the souls on the Other Side is that when we die we leave either through our feet or the top of the head. On this side I’ve heard of the “silver cord” that supposedly attaches us to life here, but no one from over there has ever mentioned this to me. It’s hard to describe exactly how we are moving — it’s a bit like floating, a bit like walking, a bit like flying, it’s a ‘gravitating’ toward the Light. There’s a feeling of anticipation — maybe a little fear, but more anticipation.

Nothing at all is forgotten. In fact, whereas now we can only remember some highlights of our past, over there we remember every single moment and detail. Everything we knew, loved, or experienced.

When we die, within seconds of entering the Light we experience a knowing. We get a fast-forward review of our lives and see the whole domino effect of all of our actions. We feel everything we made someone else feel — the joy, the hurt. We see and understand the whole domino effect of all our actions and of every interaction we had with anyone. And we know and understand what our purpose was in this lifetime.

Video: Meet a full-time medium There’s a period of transition, a time we get to reflect on our life — I don’t feel that this is standardized in any way; it’s different from individual to individual. For many there may be a necessary period of healing any physical or emotional issues, especially forgiving ourselves for anything we did while living that we don’t feel proud of, that may have hurt someone, before we are able to interact with this side, the living, again. At all times we are given help in healing what we “shoulda woulda coulda” done in our lives here.” Sometimes there is sadness at what we wish we could have done differently. We’re encouraged to heal any anger or guilt. But there is also what we would think of as physical healing — even though it’s not really physical, it’s spiritual. I can’t tell you how often someone who has been sick when they died, maybe even have been missing parts of their body, have told me in spirit that they are completely healed and healthy, and completely whole. Someone who may have had great difficulty walking or even standing on this side at the end of their life will tell me that over there they are dancing.

The true beauty of the Light is that it is total harmony. Here, we can spend a lifetime in the dark. We don’t know what we are doing or the effect we are having. But when we get over there, we get a clear view of what this side is all about.

What do we look like when we die?
We no longer have any physical appearance. We’re pure energy. When I’m doing a reading, the dead do have ways of showing me some appearance that allows me to describe them to their loved one on this side, but to be honest, I don’t know how they do that.

What is there to do on the Other Side?
There are so many dimensions, we have the choice of any kind of beauty we wish to experience. Whatever we loved is there — how could it be paradise otherwise? If we liked baseball on this side, we might choose to spend most of our time in a big beautiful baseball park, watching or playing our favorite game. If we liked to fish we can choose to be on a gorgeous, sparkling lake. If we liked the mountains, we could go skiing for as long as we want. If we liked music, we might be in a wonderful music hall. These dimensions are all created by God.

I was doing a reading for this woman once and I said, “Your husband is there with so-and-so and they are playing checkers.” She said, “No, they always played backgammon together.” OK, I’m not perfect — I always say this — but the point is that the game they enjoyed on this side, they still were playing on that side. I’ve had spirits tell me they are still enjoying their weekly card games, whatever!

Do dead people watch us shower? Does Grandma know I like to do that in bed?
Sure they can! And Grandma certainly does … They see us in the bathroom and they see us in the bedroom! But who cares? They’re dead! Who’re they gonna tell anything?

Don’t freak out. The thing you need to remember is that they are not in the flesh — they remember the flesh, but it’s not of any concern to them any more. They’re not judging. It’s not like they’re going, “Whoa! Has she got a big butt!” or “If I was him, I’da shaved that!” or “Holy Moly! Did ya ever see such a big …” Well, you get the point. The dead are not “Peeping Toms” — they don’t get any special thrill out of “watching,” it’s not entertainment to them — that’s thinking in human terms. They just look at it like human nature, like we might see two animals going at it and just look at it as animal nature. Maybe we might smile, or even laugh. But it’s not judgment. We don’t expect a couple of dogs or squirrels to be embarrassed that we see them doing what they’re doing. Yes, the dead certainly do see us in the shower or making love, but it’s just like we might witness an ordinary act of human kindness. We don’t judge it. We just smile and think, “how beautiful.” They are just happy that you are experiencing love or maybe just one-night-stand pleasure. They are happy for you. The dead are not nearly as stuffy about sex — not even our dead Sicilian fathers!

And before you even ask the question — yes, they also see all our secret, sneaky behavior —they see us raiding the refrigerator and scarfing up the ice cream and the leftover lasagna when we’re supposed to be on a diet; they see us picking our nose when we can’t find a kleenex. Again, in their eyes, it’s just ordinary human behavior. No judgment. They also see us in the operating room and in the classroom, and at our holiday table. They enjoy with us all the events we celebrate in our life and they also walk us through our sorrows and heartaches.

Is it possible to ask the dead for a moment of privacy? Can we have a “Would you please avert your eyes, Grams?” moment with the Other Side?
I hate to break it to you, but, no. Even if you said, “Don’t look,” that wouldn’t stop them. What about God? You never think about God looking, right? It’s the same thing. Does God ever stop looking? No. When your grandparents are over there, they are one with God. You can’t just turn that off or hide from it.

No! They are energy forms so they don’t have the same needs and desires of the flesh. They don’t make love, they don’t eat anything, and no, they don’t go to the bathroom. They’re in spirit form, not flesh. I know, you’re probably thinking, “No food? No sex? I’m not going!”

Is there such thing as a “dirty old ghost”?
Well I didn’t exactly say that the dead didn’t have a sense of humor about the body and being in the flesh. They may touch someone or push someone, just to show they can do it. I’ve twice had a spirit actually try to make love to me. Very strange, but not scary — of course I can’t speak for everyone on that count. But I’ve heard many stories about spirits touching someone. I had one client whose beach house down at the Jersey shore had a very playful resident ghost. He seemed to live in their shower and delighted in pressing up against anyone who used the shower — not every time, but often enough that the whole family was aware of it. When they had a guest at their beach house they’d get a kick out of it when their guest would use the shower. The person would come out of the bathroom with a weird look on their face saying something like, “You’ll never believe this, but …” and they’d all go, “We know. Charlie!!!”

The dead are just having some fun with us. They like to joke about the body. We’re in it, so we don’t always get the joke or think it’s funny. It’s a struggle here on earth, being in physical form. We have good days and bad days. But I think you all agree with me when I say that when it’s good, it can be pretty f---ing good!

Do the dead remember having sex?
They certainly do remember!

And that reminds me of a story, a couple years ago, two women came to see me for a reading. They were old friends, either in their late 70s or early 80s and had made their appointments together. They both wanted to hear from their husbands, and without any problem, their husbands both came through. Of course they all knew each other and both husbands were joking around about their “date nights” which was really a euphemism for their night to have sex with their respective wives.

So the one husband is talking about Wednesday night and the other is talking about Friday night. The one mentioned a restaurant. I asked his wife, who was there for the reading, “what about this restaurant?” Turns out that this couple used to go to the same place a few nights a week. Everybody knew them there, and they knew them so well that they knew about “Wednesday night.” The waiter would always ask at the end of the meal, did they want any dessert, but then he’d catch himself and say, almost winking, oh, no, he knew they wouldn’t want dessert because he just remembered it was Wednesday and they’d want to get home! Her friend was laughing, until her own husband started talking about Friday nights and how she’d leave her hairnet on when they made love! So this got the first woman laughing, like, “At least I didn’t wear a hairnet when I had sex!” It was so funny, like they were doing a comedy routine together with their dead husbands!

Do the dead miss their bodies?
I am under the impression that they don’t miss their bodies, but they remember the flesh as enjoyable. They remember eating, they remember having sex. But they have a sense of humor remembering their earthly desires and pleasures. In all honesty, it’s probably hard for most people to even relate to how it is there, because as spirit, we’re not even male or female. We’re completely asexual. We reincarnate as either gender because there are different lessons to be learned from each role and the spirit holds those memories. We’re so identified with male or female, whatever we are, even if we’d identify ourselves as gay or bisexual. It’s hard to get our head around, not having a body, not being either.

Another part of this is, during my readings, very often depressed or sad people will say that once they die they don’t want to come back. I hear it all the time, “I want to stay on the Other Side” or “I hope this is my last time around.” But once we’re there, something makes us come back into the flesh so that we can learn lessons. I believe that everyone’s ultimate goal is to become a spirit master or spirit guide and to be a divine spirit who is close to God. To do this we have to be worthy. In the soul form, there is nothing more important than being worthy and being close to God. On this side, we want to be married, to have kids, we want money, beauty. In the energy form, nothing physical matters any more; they only care about being close to God.

Do the dead inhabit old houses?
That old myth is not really true — at least not in the way that it’s usually portrayed in scary movies and books. I know that sometimes souls are connected to places they love, but I don’t think it’s like that in most cases. Most of the time, the dead will be around their loved ones, wherever they may be, not attached to a particular house.

Why is it that we hear about the dead haunting a particular place?
Sometimes a soul has a story to tell. For example, in historic places like a Civil War battlefield. Gettysburg is one of the most “haunted” places I’ve ever visited. There are just so many spirits there. In these cases, there is a story about an incomplete life being cut down. Our history books only tell the smallest part of the story. We will never understand the real experience. And sometimes the dead do linger in these places in order to tell their story.

In a way the souls here are “stuck.” They might not understand that it was their karma to die at that point, and might feel they’ve been prevented from completing their purpose. Think about it — when we’re stopped from doing something we want very badly to do, we get really frustrated. Maybe we feel it wasn’t our fault and we get caught up in making excuses, telling our story, so others will know it wasn’t our fault. In the case of these souls, if they would cross, on the Other Side, everything would be explained and they’d be encouraged to accept God’s love. But if they don’t cross and get their life review, and get perspective, they don’t have a clue. They literally are lost souls.

This really doesn’t happen a lot. If it happened every time someone was murdered there would be such a thick painful energy all around us. But where the story is important, some souls move on and some stay. In any case, they forgive the minute they go into the Light. In the Light there is no room for anything but forgiveness and love.

Are these souls who are stuck in “limbo”? How can a soul get out of limbo?
As I understand it, limbo is a state of frustration due to not understanding. A soul does not understand what is expected of it, what it has done wrong, and cannot go forward; it can’t get to the next level in its spiritual development.

To escape limbo the soul must be willing to listen to and heed the spirit Master or guide — like a guidance counselor. It’s like if a kid pantsed another kid at a football game. He’s reported and he’s expelled from school. But he just thought it was a joke, no big deal, he doesn’t understand why he’s in trouble.

So the guidance counselor maybe gives him example of why his actions weren’t quite right. Then the kid gets it. He has understanding, realizes what he did was wrong, even if he didn’t intend anything bad by it. He can apologize and get back into his classes. If he doesn’t get the understanding, and he’s let back into class, he may do the same thing again or something worse. But with the understanding he’s able to move on. In spiritual terms, it’s the same thing. We can’t get to the next level without gaining the understanding of the level we’re on. Once we do, we’re given a new chance, a new mission that we can set off on with an improved attitude.

Is it hard for you to visit historic sites?
In spite of the fact that it’s always a very emotional experience for me, I do enjoy visiting these kinds of places and hearing the stories there. At the Alamo, even just walking in the dirt around the fort was a very moving experience. You can feel the horses, the men, smell and taste the very blood. I don’t think you need to be psychic to experience this — it’s so strong.

When I visited the Ann Frank Museum in Amsterdam the souls surrounding that place were completely overwhelming to me. Actually, I could feel the souls throughout the old part of the city. Amsterdam is breathtakingly beautiful. Walking in the streets, along the canal, in the very stones of the buildings, they all hold the vibrations of the history that has taken place there, you can feel the energy. Apart from the beauty, I, and others, I’m sure, can’t escape the energy of all the souls still lingering there. Both the innocent and the evil. Those who were killed and those who killed.

When I do a reading, I am emotionally removed and uninvolved. But this is a very different experience for me. I do get very emotional. At the Ann Frank house, I was just crying and crying. A woman said to me, “Are you all right? Did you lose your family?” This is the downside of being a medium, I guess, this extreme sensitivity to others and what happens to them. I just have such extreme empathy. But this is not just something that I can feel. So many feel drawn to places like this. Our souls are drawn to connect with these stories.

And if you’re wondering whether I heard from Ann Frank while at the house, the answer is no, she’s not there. The spirit who was Ann Frank is a Master and would not be held in limbo in that way, attached to a place. She had a mission and a purpose in that lifetime and she accomplished that. Her life was brief, but what she accomplished was so powerful that it continues to resonate to this day. She has moved on.

Do all places in which humans have lived hold vibrations?
Anything we have touched will retain some energy. Old things, old places naturally have more, and by “old places” I mean places where people have been for a long time, or where events with a lot of intensity have taken place, where a lot of human emotion was spent, so to speak. Joy, awe, sadness, horror. You can tell the difference between the energy in an old home and the energy in a brand new, just built suburban development home. The new home has no emotional patina, far less energy than a place that has been around for years and has had “history” made within it. Also, old objects, especially ones that have been handled a lot will have this energy. Clothes that have been worn will have this. Judy Garland’s ruby slippers are in the Smithsonian Institute now, but just imagine if you could get them out of that glass case and touch them. What if you could step into them! If I was a size 5, that would be totally awesome!

Can the dead talk with each other?
Yes, definitely. Not talk, exactly, language is irrelevant. They communicate by thought, telepathically. Thought is universal. If you are thinking, “I’m hungry,” that thought is the same no matter what language you speak. Over there, spirits talk in heavenly IM.

Does everybody know everybody else there? Do we communicate with spirits we never knew on earth?
Oh yes. Bear in mind that on the Other Side we may have grandparents or other ancestors who we never even met on earth, who crossed before we were born so we only knew them in spirit, and now we are meeting them in spirit again. There are also souls with whom we have no family or friend connection but even these we will “know” instinctually and would relate to and communicate with as another human being (albeit in spirit form). The best way I can explain this is, think about if aliens came and colonized the earth. We’d recognize and relate to other humans, as opposed to the aliens, as fellow earthlings. We may not know them personally, but we think of them as “like us,” and if we wanted to ask directions from someone it’s more likely we’d ask another earthling than an alien. We’d just feel more comfortable. Over there, everyone is “like us.”

Do the dead still retain their five senses?
No. Our five senses are “of the body,” and of course the dead are “of the spirit.” They can’t smell or taste anything, but they don’t eat anything any more so it’s really not like a loss, it’s no big deal. They can’t feel anything themselves, but they can touch us. It’s not a physical touch, like with a finger. It’s energy, so it feels like a small electric shock — not strong enough to hurt anyone, but enough to startle you.

How do the dead get around?
It’s pretty much instantaneous in terms of travel time. It’s as quick as thought. In fact, it is thought. They simply change their thoughts to another place or person, and there they are — right where they want to be. The psychic autobahn!

What do the dead wear?
Nothing. It’s like trying to put clothes on the invisible man. You can’t do it. Sometimes they will appear to me in clothing, just so they will be recognizable to the person receiving a reading — for instance, it’s very common for someone to show me a uniform of some kind, whether it’s for a particular job or the military, or maybe I hear (but don’t actually see) that this person was a real snappy dresser. But for the most part they are commando. They are an energy form. They are like a shadow. And shadows don’t like to be burdened by Prada or Louis Vuitton purses. Anyone can tell that I’m not dead yet. I have never met an accessory I did not like! Bring on the bling! Gimme the bangles, baubles and beads — and while you’re at it, the Chanel sunglasses! Then help me hide the credit card bills from my husband.

Do the dead appear in color?
Not to me. No color, no size, no shape. Only on rare occasions when they are trying to give me a cue as to their identity that I can pass along to someone I’m doing a reading for. But even then, it’s more a mist or haze.

Do the dead have emotions?
They can tell what we might be feeling at the moment. They feel total joy and complete forgiveness. There is no room for anger, sadness, or fear on the Other Side. I can only relate it to when something so amazing happens to you and you are overcome with so much happiness that you forget everything that had been bothering you. You are simply beyond any type of negativity. Your mother-in-law cannot faze you. Your boss cannot make you mad. You are too happy for that. That level of happiness and joy is what They are constantly experiencing. They don’t sit around thinking, “Oh, she is so annoying,” or, “Geez, I can’t stand him.” They don’t have time for all of that. Annoyances and angers are not acknowledged. They choose joy and love and forgiveness — even when it comes to mother-in-laws (or so I am told).

Excerpted from "Do Dead People Watch Us Shower? And Other Questions You've Been All But Dying to Ask a Medium." Copyright (c) 2007 by Concetta Bertoldi. Reprinted with permission from HarperCollins. Read more from "Do Dead People Watch Us Shower?"

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